AKRON — “FirstEnergy Corp. executives used two words a lot when discussing the company’s financial position and its plans to exit the nuclear power business when they spoke with analysts Wednesday, Feb. 22: ‘bankruptcy’ and ‘billions.’
The Akron-based company might be working to position itself for better treatment from state legislators — from which FirstEnergy hopes to secure ratepayer-funded relief for its nuclear plants near Dayton and Toledo — but it made clear that the stakes are high and even bigger than FirstEnergy itself. None of the analysts questioned the company’s sincerity or used the other ‘b’ word: bluffing.
First, came the billions. FirstEnergy reported it lost $6.2 billion, or $14.49 per share, in 2016. That’s down from positive earnings of $578 million, or $1.37 per share, in 2015.
Yet, FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones began the call with analysts by saying, ‘2016 was a successful and transformative year for FirstEnergy.’
That’s likely more a sign of just how tough the year was, though. As FirstEnergy faced tough competition from new power plants using cheap natural gas as fuel, its own coal and nuclear plants have aged and grown more inefficient and costly to operate.”
— Dan Shingler, Crain’s Cleveland Business